Weeks 3 & 4
If your baby has started incessant, inconsolable, seemingly never-ending bouts of crying (or should we say screaming), it very well could be the dreaded colic which often develops around week three. Colic is generally characterized as crying that lasts at least three hours, happens at least three days a week, and continues for at least three weeks (with most cases ending at three months.)
- You’ll probably see a general pattern for colic. Many babies have a specific hour that the crying starts and stops, usually in the late afternoon to evening.
- There’s no known cause for colic (meaning there’s no cure) since babies experience it with varying levels of intensity and different physical reactions.
- Some believe it’s due to intestinal immaturity because babies sometimes pull up their knees, refuse to eat and pass gas more frequently — but that’s not always the case. If you think it’s all in your baby’s tummy, talk to the pediatrician about possible medications. Also rule out reflux or an allergy.
- Others believe colic is attributed to sensory overload since your baby is now taking in more sights and smells than in his or her sleepier first weeks. If you think this might be causing your baby’s crying, don’t use music, swinging, massage, etc. to sooth. Watch how your baby reacts to different stimuli and remove whatever is irritating.
- For whatever reason, cigarette smoke has been proven to increase the likelihood and intensity of colic. Ban smoking from indoors and encourage household smokers to quit.
- If you’re concerned that your baby’s colicky behavior is attributed to a daily dip in your milk supply (sometimes occurring in the early evening, when colic is most likely to strike), talk to your doctor about the likeliness of this. If you’re convinced this is the trigger, try supplementing with pumped milk, which will help boost your supply. Keep in mind, however, that acting like he or she is hungry and then refusing to eat is a common characteristic of colic.
- Try and stay as calm as possible. One controversial theory is that colicky babies can pick up their parents’ tension, causing them distress. While it’s more likely that the crying is what causes the tension, it’s always a good idea to create a calming, peaceful environment for a newborn. The crying is not your fault; so don’t listen to anyone who suggests otherwise.
Keep in mind that the colic will go away – we promise – and it hasn’t been proven to cause any long-term emotional or physical damage (for the baby, not you.)
Tips on Surviving Colic
There’s nothing more distressing than hearing your baby cry and have absolutely no way to make him or her stop. It’s torturous, to be honest, and it can push a healthy individual over the edge — not to mention those struggling with a chemical (hormonal) imbalance. In order to make it to the other end of this dark tunnel with your sanity in tact, follow these sound tips:
- Walk away. No one – not even a Supermom like yourself — can handle colic duty every night of the week for hours straight. It’s impossible to accomplish without losing your cool — and your mind. If you have a partner, equally splitting the shifts isn’t only beneficial for you, but for your baby. A fresh set of arms with different soothing techniques can be helpful. If not, try and find a patient and loving family member to step in every now and then to give you a break. And if all else fails and you’ve done everything you can to soothe the baby (changing, feeding, burping, etc.), put the baby down in a bassinet or crib and go collect yourself for five or ten minutes. Running yourself down isn’t helping anyone — especially your baby.
- Let it out. Talk to other parents who have survived this trying period, as well as your doctor, your partner, your mom, etc. Jump on the Internet and connect with other new parents to understand you’re not alone. And then cry a little yourself. It’s comforting to know you’re not alone. Babble has published several personal essays on parents dealing with colic:
- Tune it out. Try using a set of earplugs to dull the shrieks or using earphones to play soothing music, whether you’re pacing the room with the baby or in another room trying to get some composure. Slipping into some meditative exercises, taking a hot shower, and/or vacuuming the house can also be helpful during colic hours.
Most importantly, if you feel dangerous — like you might hit or further harm your baby — put him or her down immediately and walk away. Everyone has a breaking point, and while the thought of throwing a colicky baby out a window is not an uncommon fantasy for new parents, if you think it could go beyond your imagination, get help. If you have the urge to hit or shake the baby, get help. Don’t wait until you snap — because you just might.